Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Derailed - Updated

In the latest act of the 2007 Comedy of Errors Tour, SB572, legislation designed to fund and reform mass transit in northeastern Illinois, failed to gain sufficient votes for passage, receiving only 61 of the 71 votes necessary for passage.

The real surprise wasn't the number of Republican votes for the bill, however, it was the number of Democrats who did not support this issue that is critical to so many of us and our constituents. Some of the 'no' votes were disappointing but not shocking (Chapa LaVia, Franks), but others were very curious indeed.

A handful of Democratic legislators allied with the Governor did not support the bill, and while I don't want to get into a he said/she said exercise, it is my understanding that the Governor (either directly or through his office) was involved in pulling votes off of the bill.

My understanding is that the Governor may announce a 'plan' as early as tomorrow to address both the mass transit issue as well as the larger issue of a capital bill. For those keeping count, this plan would be in line behind the one to 'rock the system' on campaign finance and ethics; the one to improve health care for Illinoisans, and countless others.

One of the biggest impediments to any capital bill proposed by the Administration is a concern by members on both sides of the aisle that any projects set forth is such a bill would actually be funded. For those unfamiliar with the process, having a project enumerated in the budget is only part of the battle. The Governor's office has to then release the funding for the project. And there's the rub. The atmosphere right now is so poisoned that few people are willing to trust that their projects would actually see the light of day. (Save for the occasional half a bridge here and there.)

Accordingly, as recent events have shown, getting a capital bill passed is going to be an uphill battle to say the least. In the interim, however, if the Chicago public senses that the Governor should wear the jacket for the impending fee hikes and service cuts, his long summer may just get a little longer.

UPDATE - I just finished an interesting conversation with an individual well-versed in this process for longer than me who brought up a very interesting scenario. Realizing that 71 votes cannot be obtained for the bill, the Speaker could choose not exert any more real effort on this until the new session in January, at which time we would only need 60 votes to pass the bill.

Assuming that the blame in the interim can be laid at the feet of the Governor, which may not be real hard to do, this would have the double effect of having thousands of increasingly frustrated transit riders grow increasingly angry with the Governor while at the same time creating the ability to pass the bill over to the Senate, thus forcing both the Senate President's hand and putting an exorbitant amount of pressure on the Governor to address the issue on terms set by the Legislature.

Let me repeat, this is nothing more than conjecture, albeit very interesting conjecture at that.

The real problem with the above scenario of course, is that thousands of transit riders will suffer in the interim, and that even if a fix is had after the September 16 cut-off date, many riders who leave the system may not return to it.

This problem illustrates the bigger picture problem here, namely that as the political oneupmanship continues to grow, so do the needs and frustrations of the people of Illinois. Now it the time for statesmanship not gamesmanship.


At September 4, 2007 at 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice try trying to pin this on the Governor, but the fact of the matter is that this one just didn't have enough votes.

Do you honestly think that the Governor HAS 10 ALLIES in the House who he could actually pull off of the bill?

Funny - you must now feel how every fiscal/pension reformer, healthcare advocate, education funding reform advocate, and campaign reform advocate has felt this year when all of their proposals have gone down in flames to the do-nothing legislature.

Sucks, doesn't it?

At September 4, 2007 at 4:38 PM, Blogger Rep. John Fritchey said...

Fair observation. I could link about 5 of the no votes to the Governor off the top of my head, but that still isn't enough to pass the bill.

And without getting too deep into this exercise, in my opinion, of the other issues that you bring up, most, if not all of them, didn't materialize as the result of the actions or inactions of the Governor/Senate (SB5 + HB1 come to mind), not the House.

But what is needed now is not assignment of blame, but cooperation to actually get some of these things done.

At September 4, 2007 at 4:43 PM, Blogger OneMan said...

I am a bit surprised about Chapa-LaVia voting no, since Aurora has the RT 59 station, the one most used on Metra after the loop stations.

I wonder why she voted against it.

I am looking forward to the grand plan myself. Perhaps a 'fee' on suburban train parking?

At September 4, 2007 at 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But what is needed now is not assignment of blame, but cooperation to actually get some of these things done."

I agree. Let's hope the "next step" in this process gets something done.

Whether that be the Governor's plan, a House Republican plan, or the re-emergence of Rep. Hamos' plan.

At September 4, 2007 at 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A handful of Democratic legislators allied with the Governor did not support the bill, (including one, incredibly enough, from Chicago) and while I don't want to get into a he said/she said exercise, it is my understanding that the Governor (either directly or through his office) was involved in pulling votes off of the bill."

This is a total copout, John. List the names, and stop blaming the governor. Yes we know theses people are your buddies and posting their names is hanging out to dry, but HOLD THE ACCOUNTABLE. Stop being such a mushroom. Passing the buck only helps you, John.

The picture you have painted over the last few weeks is of a governor on a godzilla-like rampage destroying everything in his path. Now suddenly he has 10 allies? Is the guy destroying all that is holy, or not?

At September 4, 2007 at 6:54 PM, Anonymous Brian said...

Wow, it's unbelievable that Dunkin voted against it. More than 300 of his constituents submitted letters through our website asking him to vote yes on the bill.

At September 4, 2007 at 7:30 PM, Anonymous JD Is On The Way said...

I travel (on Metra; UP West) downtown 1/2 times a week. Love the Metra ride. Would willingly pay $2 to park instead of the $1.25 Also, would pay 50% more for my 10 ride pass. It's worth it to me.

But I got to tell you, I work with folks who ride both Metra and the CTA daily, and if listing to those folks is any indication, they love Metra, and flat out hate the CTA. I mean to the point where to a non-CTA rider like me, it seems almost beyond belief how bad they claim it is.

If these folks are any indication, there's a strong group of CTA riders out there who aren't sure that a partial shutdown would be that much different than normal CTA operations (Re: SNAFU; Situation Normal, All ...... Up). Btw, most all of these folks are City residents.

Rep. Fritchey - It really seems that the CTA needs some serious housecleaning, and they need to understand they are in a "Service" business.

Now, all that being said, a partial shutdown because the CTA operations are slovenly, bloated, and ineffective is just flat out counterproductive. The real problem at the heart of the issue is that virtually NOBODY in the House (Democrats or Republicans) trust our Governor, and now they don't trust our Senate President either.

What Tom Cross said is how the House Republicans feel. They feel that they're the next group to be played/shafted by Blago (there will be no capital bill, so little or nothing for downstate & the outer collars), and honestly, they have a confidence level in our governor that is down in the negative numbers.

However, I still think that between Mike Madigan, Mayor Daley, and Tom Cross, there will be a solution (there will be enough votes in the House). Then I think we'll have another fight, along the lines of the "First Battle of The Budget".

Then it's going to be fun looking forward to that Senate fight. Emil Jones will really be on the spot with that one.

My .02

At September 4, 2007 at 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


What is the future of transit funding? We are scared. Blaming the Governor or the Governor will not keep my bus from being cut.

At September 4, 2007 at 7:48 PM, Anonymous DuPage Saint said...

Everybody down there is bought and paid for by some special interest, even if the special interest is what can I get out of it in the future, Senate Seat, Cabinet or just a nice joicy lobbying job. Sign as many pettions as you want, nothing counts except what is in it for me. I love Springfield and this year has been special.

At September 4, 2007 at 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real problem is that all we get is gamesmanship and no statesmanship throughout IL politics. Yourself and Rep. Hamos deserve a lot of credit at attempting to rise above the gamesmanship, but your failure to ensure that Representatives like Chapa LaVia and Rep. Franks concerns weren't addressed prior to the thousands of transit riders who are going to suffer in the interim time to craft a bill that is so important to our regions economy and environment tells me that this is yet one more of many failures this legislature has left as its legacy. How long has the CREATE proposal been out there? Are you all waiting for the increasing imports from Asia to be routed through St. Louis and Memphis?

Seriously, what are you people doing to deserve not only reelection, but being paid with our hard earned tax dollars?

I'm no fan of Blago - but the enemy is in your mist. Folks like DeLeo and Ronen would have done the Gov's bidding in the senate just like they did on property taxes. You all should be so ashamed of yourselves. Was anything of substance passed in this session? I have joined the list of Americans who simply despise politicians. They are interested in one thing and one thing only - power - at the expense of principle and sound public policy. If the Dems re-nominate this moron for Gov again, or Stroger for president of the board, or yet another family member from the corrupt oligarchy that is the Democratic party in IL, they will have lost a life time Democratic voter. I've had enough. I will join the independents and hope that my neighbors will stop being bamboozled by the BS of what these elected officials ‘deliver’ and start looking at the massive structural problems in the state pension system, lack of educational funding, deteriorating infrastructure, corrupt and undemocratic election and ethic laws, and just an utter lack of sound judgment and priorities.

At September 5, 2007 at 12:54 AM, Anonymous openlineblog.com said...

Here's a suggestion. Before the next funding attempt of any kind, why not implement all those so-called reforms that were supposed to be part of the package? Shouldn't the reforms stand alone and receive overwhelming support?

Suburban taxpayers (our main audience) might have more sympathy for the CTA if the root cause of the CTA's problems were eliminated, which is that it is a regime and mess run by the City of Chicago, which has done poorly.

Regional transportation is obviously a regional issue, yet we have these multiple agencies and their multiple levels of expenses.

WHY? If you were new to the Chicago area and starting a transit system for the region, would you create what we have today?

The old model of everything pointing to the City of Chicago doesn't work anymore with suburban to suburban growth (including business). The sooner the City of Chicago gets out of the transit business (and the control that comes with it), the sooner, there can be comprehensive solutions that will last.

At some point, Daley needs to take responsibility for the CTA's failures. Last time we checked, he's been in charge for a while. Giving more money to a failure may just fund more failure.

At September 5, 2007 at 6:58 AM, Anonymous Disgusted said...

If something was done about the corruption in Chicago government and that of some of the collar counties served by Metra, it and the CTA wouldn't be in this position. And no one steps up to point out wastage, slovenly and lazy workers, filthy trains, etc., until it gets to the breaking point. If you travel every day with these conditions, it equate to living in your home and not cleaning it. Speak up before it gets to this level and you won't have to beg the rest of the citizens of the state for a bail-out. The rest of Illinois doesn't use and doesn't care about Chicago's woes. Help yourselves

At September 5, 2007 at 7:41 PM, Blogger pc said...

Ah, the old "waste" argument. May I remind the ignoramuses that the state auditor general released a 650-page comprehensive audit of the CTA and RTA?

What? You didn't read through it? Well, I did, and far from uncovering "a mess... wastage," I'll quote the auditor general directly: "the needs are real, the problems are real." Unless you know of something that he doesn't know about, which would well and truly astound me, then you need to pipe down. We only have the future economic viability of Illinois at stake, after all.

As for downstate, it's thanks to Chicago's powerful economic engine that your little towns and cities don't just dry up and blow away like those of South Dakota. Besides, this bill doesn't put you on the hook for anything: it's a proposal to allow the RTA to raise Chicago metro taxes to pay for Chicago metro services.

At September 5, 2007 at 8:18 PM, Blogger Rep. John Fritchey said...


Truth be told, I wasn't withholding the names, I didn't really think to list them, (remember, I am an individual blogger, not a journalist).

I feel comfortable in saying that I make my thoughts more publicly visible than pretty much any other elected that I can think of, so I don't really get where you see the cop out in my post.

Voting is obviously done in public, so I'm also not sure how I am keeping anybody from getting 'hung out to dry'.

Furthermore, listing the names has nothing to do with saying that the Governor was trying to pull votes off of the bill.

In any event, to the best of my recollection, the Democrats who voted no were: Chapa LaVia, Crespo, Durkin, Franks, Granberg, Hoffman, McCarthy, Phelps, and Reitz. There may be somebody that I'm missing, but I don't think so. You can figure out for yourselves who voted no for what reasons, not my job.

Happy now? Next time, you can write a post the way the you think it should be written. On your own blog :)

At September 5, 2007 at 10:07 PM, Anonymous Nancy N said...

While, I appreciate your thoughts and concerns on the mass transit issue on behalf of those of us who rely on the CTA/Pace/Metra to get downtown to work, most of the people I know from all over the city and suburbs have resigned themselves to paying more. My main concerns are not so much for me as, I still have options to get to work, although they are fewer, but for the people whose main routes are now gone or unaffordable. There are people who will be paying more than $10 a day using cash and transferring once. I realize I'm not saying anything that you don't know, but, I don't think that this can be restated often enough.

The citizens of Illinois have suffered through a summer of inept government by their legislature and executive and, quite frankly, everyone will need to rebuild the trust in government that has been squandered at every step this year.

I don't care what faction of government did what, I am only concerned that the needs of the public are playing second fiddle to personal politics. Mr. Fritchey, as a constituent, I implore you to help be a part of the solution to bring this government together. I remember a lesson that my 5th grade teacher taught us about the framers of the Constitution and compromise for the good of all not the benefit of the few. Thanks in advance for your efforts.

At September 6, 2007 at 6:43 PM, Anonymous David said...

Rep. Fritchey, I am curious as to your view about the CTA. Why DO we have the CTA in this regional economy? Why not have one agency that handles the region and not these individual agencies that add costs?

And, let's be honest. The Daley regime has done a terrible job of running the CTA. At the minimum, make Pace run ALL buses in the region or Metra run ALL trains in the region. I know Daley is obsessed with control but isn't it time for Democrats to stand up to him and start fixing this problem for the long-term?

At September 19, 2007 at 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey isn't it always "the people" (poor, lower-mid, and middle class that is) who suffer...transit riders, how about underfunded schools; causing children to carry on under-educated, affecting, altering, changing, disturbing, impinging, perturbing, stirring, swaying, touching, transforming, upsetting them all the way through adulthood and then onto their children...?

Antonym: leave unmoved-the funds that are needed for children. Period.

Again, good job in your school efforts. Keep it up, spread it around and make it real.


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