Tuesday, June 08, 2010

That's All Folks!

It's been bothering me for a long time that I've let this blog go by the wayside. When I first started it (almost FIVE years ago), I did so because it provided a great format for me to share my thoughts and observations in long-form and to create a format for dialogue on a wide range of topics, political and otherwise. I also believed that it sent a message of accessibility and communication that needed to be amplified between elected officials and the people whom they represent.

I was proud of the conversations that we were able to have on this blog and that it was cited in everything from media articles to political science textbooks as being at the forefront in the changes in political communications. And while the response and readership were great, I eventually realized that there simply weren't enough hours in the day for me to take care of everything else that I needed to and to continue to do this blog in the way that it deserved to be done. The ability to use Facebook and Twitter to reach an even wider audience essentially sealed the deal. And while I no longer share the in-depth viewpoints there that I did here, on a certain level, the interactivity in the short-form formats is even greater.

In any event, and barring something unforeseen, it's time to put this blog on official hiatus. It's been a great run, an experiment that worked better than I could have imagined, and based on what I've been told many times, an inspiration for numerous other elected officials. And while I don't see firing this back up anytime soon, I'll never say never.

Until then, I hope that we'll stay connected via my Facebook page and/or my Twitter account. This blog may go dark but the future's still bright.

- John

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you, and those you care about, a happy and healthy 2010. While we may have many challenges ahead of us, this is a time of hope and renewal, and it is in that spirit that I wish you all the best.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Looking for Some Holiday Cheer?

Looking for yet another excuse to celebrate this holiday season? I've got just the thing for you. Join me at my 32nd Ward Holiday Party this coming Tuesday.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, December 15th
Six Degrees, 1935 North Damen

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Power to the People

As we are all aware, over the last several months, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted three different times to rollback the recently-increased County sales tax, only to be vetoed each time by Board President Todd Stroger. Put differently, Cook County Commissioners attempted three different times to represent their constituents, only to be thwarted by an unreasonable amount of power, afforded to President Stroger under an arcane and unjust law that required a 4/5 majority, or 14 commissioners, to override his veto. The Board President possessed an extraordinary amount of power unbecoming to a democratic body. Until now.

Recently, Cook County Commissioners voted once again to rollback the sales tax increase, and once again, for the fourth time, President Stroger vetoed it. This time, however, he ran out of red ink, because the Cook County Board could now overturn Stroger’s veto with only 11 votes.

Back in 2006, I introduced legislation that I had been working on in conjunction with Congressman Mike Quigley to reduce the veto override threshold down from a 4/5 majority to a 3/5 majority – a more acceptable, just, and democratic threshold. Over the past three years, we faced considerable opposition and obstacles, and neither the public outrage nor political will existed to reform the system. In fact, during the 2006 campaign season, one candidate running for Cook County Board President supported the measure, and stated that it was “not about politics or power, this is about what is best for Cook County.”

Soon after the campaign, that candidate’s support for the measure waned when he was elected President of the Cook County Board, and following President Todd Stroger’s self-serving flip-flop, the idea died shortly after.

After living with the highest sales tax in the country and amidst an economic depression, what was once just an abstract law became very tangible to the public, who rallied their elected officials to support our legislation this fall. Now, with the support of many of my colleagues in Springfield, a new version of the bill to lower the Cook County veto threshold passed in the General Assembly and was quickly signed into law by Governor Quinn.

As a result, the County Board now needs only a 3/5 majority vote, or 11 votes, to override President Stroger’s veto. I am thrilled that 12 Cook County Commissioners chose to use this newly bestowed power to override President Stroger’s veto. It pleases me to see that the Cook County Commissioners finally have the power of democracy with them now and the opportunity to do what is best for Cook County residents, not just what is best for elected officials, both now and into the future.

Just goes to show you that every now and then, the good guys can still win one.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bloggy Style

Kevin Robinson, who writes over at Chicagoist, just put up an article talking about one of my favorite topics - me :) Actually, while Kevin is inexplicably complimentary to me (thanks Kevin), the real takeaway from the article in my opinion is not just whether elected officials use social media, but how they use it.
Social networking has become so prevalent in society that even politicians and elected officials use it communicate with constituents. Unfortunately, they tend to use it in a dry and almost "safe" way - sticking to an unwritten script of stating a position on an issue, thanking supporters/asking them to help support a campaign, piece of legislation or friendly candidate, and sharing information about issues the candidate is working to promote or support.

11th District state representative John Fritchey, however, breaks that mold. Fritchey is famous for his Facebook updates - in fact, he's pretty well known for embracing social media applications, from Twitter, to Facebook, to yes, even Blogger.
Those of you that follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or have been reading my blog for the last several years (yes, I am well aware that my blogging has slacked off to no end as my posting and tweeting increased), know that I will be absurdly candid, bordering on irreverent, when it comes to my comments. And while that may give political consultants justifiable pause, for me, it's simply an extension of who I am - for better or worse.

But the point that I tried to convey in the article is that I think the key to maximizing both the intention and the value of social media in the political arena is to use it to let the public see more of who you really are as opposed to simply repackaging the canned messaging that they get all too often from their elected officials.

I know elected officials with Facebook pages and Twitter accounts who likely couldn't turn on their laptop if their lives depended on it; they have staffers handle everything. In my mind, that not only defeats the whole purpose, it actually sends just the opposite message from the one you want to convey.

How's this for a radical concept? If you want to look like you actually like interacting with the public, try interacting with the public. But do it yourself.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Thanks to our Men and Women in Service

This is from an e-mail my father sent me a couple years ago. Happy Veterans' Day to him and to all the other veterans who have sacrificed for our Country.

It is the SOLDIER, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the SOLDIER, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the SOLDIER, not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the SOLDIER, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the SOLDIER, not the politician,
who has given us the right to vote.

It is the SOLDIER,
who salutes the flag,

It is the
who serves under the flag,

and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

Monday, October 12, 2009

Illinois Economic Briefing

The following is a briefing report that I have been graciously allowed to publish for you courtesy of its author, respected U of I economist, Dr. Geoffrey Hewings. (There is a graph missing from the version below, basically because I couldn't get it to format the right way). Dr. Hewings offers some very interesting insights as to the state of Illinois' economy, how we got here, and how we get out of here. Give it a read.

Illinois Economic Briefing
September 2009
prepared by
Dr. Geoffrey J.D. Hewings
Regional Economics Applications Laboratory
University of Illinois

Challenges, Issues and Opportunities

Illinois’ economic growth remains anemic.

- Through June 2009, the cumulative job growth for Illinois, RMW (i.e., Rest of the Midwest - IA, MO, WI, MI, OH, IN), and the nation compared to January 1990 stood at 7.99%, 9.54%, and 20.65%, respectively. Illinois has been growing at less than half the rate of the US for over a decade and a half and the issue has received no attention.

- Problem in IL is not with the structure of the economy but with our growth rates. We “look” very much like the US economy but on a sector-by-sector basis we grow less rapidly.

Past Governor and Legislators have invested little effort to understand Illinois economy.

- Current state policies have been enacted without a full understanding of the economy, how it has changed and degree to which a Governor’s policies can make a difference.

- Elected officials are under mistaken impression that because the economy is large and complex it will sort itself out.

Need a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis with input from government, public, private sector, unions and other stakeholders with commitment from Governor and Legislators to act on recommendations.

- Census estimates 80 million new residents in US between now and 2050 – how can IL position itself to attract a significant share?
- Over last 15 years, Chicago and Illinois have lost significant revenues as a result of out-migration, especially of retirees. Currently estimate that the state loses $1.5 billion a year from net migration (in minus out) translating into loss of state income and sales tax revenue:

- Result of significant retiree out-migration (Chicago is second only to New York in retiree out-migration).

- Result of fact that average salaries of in-migrants lower than average of the out-migrants.

- If that $1.5 billion were spent in the state an additional 20,000-30,000 jobs would result.

- Illinois needs an integrated transportation system approach (not one in which airport, road and rail planning are separated).

- Evidence from Europe shows strong correlation between location of corporate headquarters and intercontinental airline connections.

- Improvements, via project CREATE, in freight transportation will enhance Chicago’s leadership position in this rapidly growing activity.

- Interstate trade is increasing more rapidly than gross national product.

Human capital is being exported because we are not creating attractive jobs that would keep workers in Illinois.

- Investment in human capital is the most crucial element to economic growth even though returns may not be evident for a decade. Long-term vision required.

- University of Illinois estimated that lifetime benefit from BA degree is close to $700,000 – significant impact on individual welfare but also to Illinois in terms of additional income and sales taxes.

- Illinois currently is a net exporter of skilled labor.

Renewable energy, high speed rail, public transportation, and energy efficiency all have enormous potential to generate significant numbers of high paying, sustainable jobs.

- Investment in renewable energy and energy retrofit will reduce state’s dependency on oil-based products (where a large percentage of the ripple effects “leak” out of the state) AND will also create significant numbers of jobs within state.

- Political turmoil of the last decade has cost the state in terms of:
- businesses relocating out of the state.
- local firms expanding out-of-state plants and operations.
- businesses that explored but did not locate in Illinois.

- Illinois’ gross product exceeds $500 billion yet the state spends virtually no money either to understand or monitor its economy.

Economic Highlights

- Illinois has never fully recovered from the 2001-2002 recession – in contrast, the US recovered by February 2005.

- Illinois has never had a period since the end of World War II in which the recovery of a prior employment peak took more than eight years. Yet, with continued month-to-month employment declines, it is still impossible to forecast recovery of the prior employment peak of November 2000.

- Illinois is 373,300 jobs below its November 2000 peak. If growth in population is added and “equilibrium” labor force participation rates, then that figure increases to a net deficit of 476,300 jobs in Illinois.

- With consensus forecasts suggest continuing job erosion for another 4-6 quarters, Illinois can be expected to begin the recovery with a job deficit in excess of 500,000 jobs.

- A robust recovery of 50,000 jobs a year would still take 10 years to reclaim the November 2000 peak – and Illinois has experienced only one year since 2000 when job growth exceeded 50,000.

· Illinois economy has lost 272,600 jobs in the last 12 months.

· Illinois, RMW, and the nation all lost jobs in June. However, for all three, the job loss rates were smaller compared to the first four months of 2009. Within the rest of Midwest, over 80% of job losses occurred in Ohio and Michigan.

· Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, Illinois has lost 307,600 jobs, of which 268,400 jobs (87.3%) have been lost since September 2008.

· Through 2008, Illinois lost an average of 11,808 jobs per month. However, for the first five months of 2009 that jumped to an average loss of 27,200 jobs per month.

· Over the last 12 months, Illinois payroll cut 272,600 jobs at a rate -4.57%, the rate is higher than the -4.12% national rate. RMW continued to lose jobs at a rate of -5.12%, its 16th negative month in a row.

· The official unemployment rate may underestimate true numbers of unemployed since labor force participation rates have declines; the Regional Economics Application Laboratory at University of Illinois calculates a shadow unemployment rate that accounts for those who have dropped out of the labor force altogether. For Illinois, RMW and the nation, the shadow unemployment rates were 12.0%, 13.7% and 10.7%, compared to official unemployment rates of 10.3%, 11.0% and 9.5%.

· Illinois has not outperformed ANY of 10 aggregate sectors in the nation over the period of 1990-2009 and only two sectors compared to the Rest of the Midwest.

· If Illinois were able to replace its lost jobs, without any increase in tax rates its coffers would see an annual increase in:

Income tax revenue: $700 million

Sales tax revenue: $500 million

TAX REVENUE $1.2 Billion

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

4/5 Override Costs us Dollars and Makes No Sense

Rep. Fritchey Applauds County Board Action on Veto Override

Urges Immediate Effective Date

for Pending Legislation

CHICAGO – State Representative John Fritchey (D-Chicago) today applauded the Cook County Board for passing a resolution urging state lawmakers and the governor to pass legislation to reduce the vote requirement necessary to override a veto by the Cook County Board President. But he went on to caution that the currently pending legislation doesn’t go far enough and urged that it be strengthened.

“I applaud the Cook County Board for passing today’s resolution supporting this important initiative that I have been working on with Congressman Quigley since 2006,” stated Rep. Fritchey. “All that Cook County residents have to do to understand the importance of this issue is to look at their most recent sales receipt and see the highest sales taxes in the nation,” added Rep. Fritchey. “This tax burden could have been eliminated this past summer if Cook County had the lower veto override threshold.”

Fritchey went on to caution that the legislation presently pending in Springfield does not go far enough because it would not take effect for over one year, until January, 2011.

“While I agree with the idea of the resolution that the majority vote should be lowered, under the pending bill, the 3/5 majority vote will not go into effect until January 1, 2011. There is simply no reason to postpone ending this onerous burden as soon as possible, and accordingly, the bill should be amended to provide for an immediate effective date,” added Rep. Fritchey.

Rep. Fritchey stated that he has already prepared such an amendment for filing and has additionally introduced new legislation with an immediate effective date. The bill is House Bill 4632.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our Next Board President?

I'm not sure but I think that I have just made my decision as to who to endorse for Cook County Board President. I think that after you watch this whole video, your mind may be made up as well.

Boo-yah is right!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Reform 2.0

I know it's been forever since I've regularly been posting here - you can blame Facebook and Twitter for that - but for anybody that still checks in here, below is a video from one of the news stories about my announcement yesterday that I am running for Cook County Commissioner for the 12th District. Under the video is the press release from yesterday's announcement.

Fritchey to Seek

Cook County Board Seat

Claypool & Quigley Endorse Fritchey as Needed Reform Voice

CHICAGO – In a significant political announcement, State Rep. John Fritchey stated that he will not seek re-election to the General Assembly seat that he has held since 1996, opting to run to fill the vacancy created by Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, who has announced he will not be running for another term. Congressman Mike Quigley and Commissioner Claypool joined Rep. Fritchey at his announcement and pledged their full support of Fritchey’s bid, citing the need for the County Board to have a proven reformer who can hit the ground running.

Rep. Fritchey was first elected to the Illinois House in 1996, representing a district including Bucktown, DePaul, Roscoe Village, Lakeview, and Ravenswood. The former Illinois Assistant Attorney General has been the Chairman of the House Civil Judiciary Committee for the past seven years. He previously chaired the House Consumer Protection Committee.

During his legislative tenure, Fritchey has been an unwavering reform leader in Springfield, having authored and sponsored numerous ethics and campaign finance reform laws. Milestone accomplishments include his work with then-State Senator Barack Obama to pass the Ethics Act of 2003 and more recently, the enactment of a law to finally ban ‘pay-to-play’ politics in Illinois.

A vocal critic of both former Governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, Fritchey was a member of the Special Investigative Committee that drafted the impeachment resolution against Blagojevich.

“When I first arrived in Springfield, nobody really wanted to take on the fight to reform state government,” said Fritchey. “There were a lot of uphill battles and even resentment, but I persisted and slowly but surely, we started fixing a very broken system. And while there’s definitely still work to be done, the good news is that there are a lot more legislators now willing and able to do it.”

By contrast, Fritchey stated that the recent departure of former-Commissioner Quigley, who defeated Fritchey in a Special Primary this past March to succeed Congressman Rahm Emanuel, and Commissioner Claypool’s decision not to seek reelection, have created an urgent need for reform leadership on the Cook County Board. Talks among the three elected officials convinced Fritchey to give up his seniority in the House to run for the Board.

“Now more than ever, we need a proven reformer with the common-sense, experience, and willingness to take on the big issues,” said Congressman Quigley. “The times demand and the voters deserve elected officials like John Fritchey who will challenge the status quo and fight for taxpayers. Reforming government saves us money, and amidst the greatest economic downtown in a generation, we can’t afford not to keep working for change. John will be a terrific addition to the Board and a fitting successor to our friend Forrest Claypool.”

Working together to fix county government is nothing new for the three officials. Over the years, Fritchey, Quigley, and Claypool have joined forces to take on initiatives including the elimination of pension abuses by county officials, as well as trying to lower the number of votes needed to override a veto by the Board President – an issue looming large as the Board once again tries to roll back the recent county sales tax hike.

“Even when the odds were against us, I’m proud to have been able to accomplish a great deal at the County,” said Commissioner Claypool. “John has had a similar experience at the State, and so he is ideally-suited to not just carry on, but build upon, the work Mike and I have done on the County Board. When it comes to fighting for taxpayers and cleaning up Cook County, John Fritchey is the clear choice to become the next Commissioner for the 12th District.”

“Just like nature, reform abhors a vacuum,” said Fritchey. “Mike and Forrest have been groundbreaking reformers at the County level, and with the loss of their two key board votes, we need to make sure that taxpayers are getting responsible and effective government for their dollars. Serving on the County Board will provide an opportunity to continue my past work and bring it closer to home. Whether it is property tax reform, increased transparency and accountability, or environmental initiatives, there will be no shortage of important issues to take on.”

“I am as proud of my record and my ideas as I am to receive the support of these two County reform pioneers,” said Fritchey. “I’m looking forward to making a very compelling case to the voters and starting this next chapter of public service.”

The Primary Election will take place in February 2010.