Thursday, May 28, 2015

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By Nancy Thorner –

The upscale community of Lake Forest remains in a turmoil over what was to be a fast-track approval at a hurriedly arranged 7:00 a.m. Special Meeting of Lake Forest Board of Education District 115 on Tuesday, May 26, to discuss the hiring of Dr. Chala Holland, an African American administrator now serving as assistant principal at Oak Park and River Forest High School, as the sole candidate for the position of principal at Lake Forest High School. Ms. Holland was picked from a pool of 25 candidates. Eight were interviewed, culling the pool down to three. Through interviews conducted by teachers and administrators, Holland was chosen as the finalist.

The LFHS principal search began in March of this year to replace Barry Rogers (LFHS also has an assistant principal) who resigned from his LFHS position after only two years of what had been a successful tenure. Roger’s resignation was followed in short order with his appointment to another administrative position, that of an Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, a shared position in Lake Forest Districts 67 and 115.

Although the administration tried to keep Dr. Holland’s name a secret, even stating in an email to parents on May 25 that “it remains by necessity and law a personnel matter required to be confidential”, this was not to be. The leaking of Holland’s name as the administration’s #1 choice for principal happened on Friday, May 15.  It didn’t take long until concerned citizens in Lake Forest, wanting to know more about the administration’s #1 candidate for principal, used Google as their search engine. Links to Dr. Holland’s Facebook page, her website’s consulting firm of Holland Educational Consulting Group (HECG), and other social media accounts were found and examined.  Most disconcerting is that less than 24 hours after the Google search began all of Ms. Holland’s information had been scrubbed from the Internet.

Among the more inflammatory remarks on a recovered cache of erased Holland posts, doubly offensive because of the job Holland is seeking, purports that “tracking is a beacon of white privilege and institutionalized racism.” Regarding tracking, it separates children into various groups backed on their ability in coursework specific to AP honors, college prep and remedial.  A February 22, 2014 post on the HECG Facebook page showed an image of Malcolm X with this overlay quote in white letters: “Only a FOOL Would Let His Enemy Teach his Children.” Another HECG website post of January 1, 2013, focused on academic tracking, how it perpetrates racism in schools, and about white privilege and internalized racism.

The initial secrecy over principal candidate Chala Holland (pronounced Shay-la, who was in the audience at the Tuesday morning special board meeting), was further compounded by what the Internet search revealed.  As would be expected, the information spread quickly through social media. Accordingly, the stage was set for a standing room only, vocal crowd that filled the District 115 Board of Education meeting room at its Lake Forest West Campus on Tuesday, May 26.   Public interest was further enlisted through the initiative and courage of a LFHS Freshman who started an online petition late on Saturday, May 23rd, requesting signatures of those protesting the hiring of Holland.  By the morning of the special board of education meeting, Tuesday, May 26, over 546 signatures had been collected.  A bright, posed and well-spoken young man offered these comments during the time of public comments on Tuesday, May 26.

As to why the Special Board of Education meeting was set at 7:00 a.m. the day after Memorial Day, school board president, Reese Marcusson, explained:  “The candidate had been selected [interview process was complete] and action was called for.”  Continuing: “It is only at a school board meeting where business can be discussed outside of an executive meeting. Finding a time suitable for all board members to attend is difficult.  Schedules have to be rearranged.”

Remarks by Superintendent Michael Simeck informed the standing room only crowd about the very talented Dr. Chala Holland, who, by the way, is a step about Simeck in having earned her doctorate degree. As is indicative of the process used in the highly competitive school districts here in northern Illinois, and why salaries are so astronomical in comparison to the rest of Illinois, Simeck went on to say, “The more talented the candidate is, the more likely the candidate will be snapped up by another school district. Time is rarely your friend, so we had to move quickly.”

According to information received from “Open The Books” (A Project of American Transparency), following are the 2014 base salaries for 1) Superintendent Michael Simeck ($204,598); 2) Barry Rogers when principal at LFHS ($206,945); and the present assistant LFHS principal ($204,598).  Forty percent of teachers and administrators at LFHS receive salaries at the $100,000 to $100,125 level, while 21% are compensated at the $125,000+ level. These salaries represent only “pensionable” salary — the annual amount that figures into the eventual calculation of the employees retirement annuity and are not total cost which includes perks and pension benefits.

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The board and superintendent Michael Simeck listened to more than two dozen comments from residents of the community, as well as colleagues and neighbors of the candidate.  Comments were limited to three minutes; audience members were requested to hold their applause.  Some booing did erupt, which the board president nipped in its bud, when non-residents used the podium to speak in defense of Ms. Holland.  Despite rhetoric relating how successful Ms. Holland was when employed in Evanston and now at Oak Park High School, it was  concurred that Lake Forest residents should be given the priority in speaking.  As one Lake Forest resident remarked, “Outsiders need not preach to us, for how can they know what is best for the community of Lake Forest?

One non-resident even suggested that Lake Forest, as part of a Global Community, must adapt to what is a changing society.

Residents offering comments were respectful in how they addressed the board, often expressing gratitude for the work of school board members.  Two resident speakers did suggest that Superintendent Simeck resign from his position.

Major concerns and questions expressed as public comments:

  •  “Why did Ms. Holland scrub her Internet sites to hide her opinions from the community?”
  • “Who told Ms. Holland to scrub her website and why?  It’s now down for maintenance?”
  • “Take a deep breath and delay hiring.  An interim principal can be named at Lake Forest High School (There is already an assistant principal in place.).”
  • “Superintendent Simeck seems to have his own agenda for Lake Forest High School.  If any administration has an agenda it wishes to put in place, it should start its own school.  I don’t want my children to be an experiment of some future idea that might not work.”
  • “The ideas and core values of the students must be considered and those of the community.  Does Superintendent Simeck believe he knows the core values of Lake Forest resident better than the residents themselves do?  An agenda is being pushed that is not in keeping with the core values of this community. Truth is like a lion.  You don’t have to defend it. Truth needs no explanation.”
  • In a tongue and cheek comment: “Could it be that all of Holland’s websites were removed for maintenance at the same time?”
  • “Superintendent Simeck’s action represents a hostile takeover of the Lake Forest School System.  Just say ‘no’ when it comes to renewing Simeck’s contract.”
  • “Were the views held by Ms. Holland known by Simeck when he recommended Holland?  What could Simeck have been thinking in hiring someone so obsessed with race?”
  • “You can see that I am brown.  It takes hard work to succeed.  My children fit into Lake Forest School System.  I don’t want compassion from anyone because of the color of my skin.”
  • As stated by an educated black Lake Forest resident and parent:  “My children are doing well.  I found Holland’s posts very divisive.”
  • “It’s about Holland’s character — end of story.  About scrubbing her social media — or who told her to do so — is proof of her character.”
  • “Ms. Holland may be brilliant, but she would be more effective in another situation given the right setting and circumstance.  Hiring Ms. Holland would be a disservice to the children.  It’s all about kids at the end of the day.”

Following the public comments the board and the administration went into executive session. Announced after the meeting was reconvened was that the discussion about Chala Holland’s candidacy would extend for several more days. Another public meeting will be held sometime between the evening of June 1 and the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on June 9th.

What happened in Lake Forest is an example of what grassroots activism can do through social media to rally individuals together for a common cause.  Although the saga continues in Lake Forest, it remains troubling that Chala Holland seems to view tracking as some kind of a white supremacy thing.  She might even be described as a revolutionary intellectual if her views weren’t in sync with what is so prevalent in today’s society by those on the Left:  an obsession by white supremacy and racism as a reflection of the ills of society.

Although offensive, this thought process does not describe Lake Forest High School, or the community as a whole, with its mostly white population.  It would not be impertinent to inquire whether Superintendent Michael Simeck is attempting to implement a major culture shift at Lake Forest High School?

Cultural shifts through experimentation that propose to bring fairness to all, especially to those perceived to be poor and less fortunate, are taking place across the spectrum of American society.  Public schools are not excluded from the perceived leftist philosophy that white students must be made to understand that being white is not a sign of privilege.  It is through hard work and effort that LFHS students do well academically, not because most of them are white.

Superintendent Simeck seems eager to jump on the band wagon for social reform. The question remains how to fit a square peg in a round hole if the board and Superintendent go their own way and hire Dr. Chala Holland as principal of Lake Forest High School.

The author would like to hear how other school districts in Illinois are dealing with the issues of white supremacy and racism.

Technorati Tags: Illinois Review, Lake Forest Schools, Nancy Thorner

Friday, March 13, 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

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Monday, October 27, 2014

 

One-party monopoly

The one-party political monopoly here in Illinois must change. The status quo cannot remain. How many times can Illinoisans be snookered into believing that by awarding Democrats with their votes, who now have super majorities in both houses of the General Assembly, that things will be different this time around? As the idiom goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” This means that we should learn from our mistakes and not allow people to take advantage of us repeatedly.

Are things really all honky dory in Illinois as Governor Quinn would have us believe?

Here are facts about Illinois that were not manufactured to spin the truth, but which represent solid research by reputable organizations and government agencies. Illinois is in crisis.

Illinois is dead last of all 50 states in recovering from the Great Recession.

• Illinois work force suffered the largest monthly workforce loss in recorded state history in June of this year.

• Food stamp growth has outpaced new jobs in Illinois by nearly 2-to-1 in the past four years.

• Sky-high property taxes make home ownership a pipe dream and the job market is terrible. The bleeding is bad; on net, 1 person leaves Illinois every 10 minutes.

• Youth and minority workers have been hurt most by the state’s ongoing policy errors.

• The result of Illinois’ anti-business environment and tax-hiking ways is a recovery that is estimated to drag on for seven more years — and that’s just to get back to the number of Illinoisans who were working in January 2008.

Here are three candidates running for state office in northern Illinois who want to shake up Springfield. They deserve your vote.

Don Wilson — Challenging Democrat State Senator Terry Link, District 30.

Dr. Mark Neerhof — Challenging Democrat Rep. Scott Drury, District 58.

Leslie Monger — Challenging Democrat Rep. Carol Sente, District 59.

Let’s return Illinois to its once grandeur as the “Land of Lincoln” and to a state we can all be proud of to call home.

Nancy J. Thorner

 

 

letter to editorTo the Editor:

As President Obama considers sidestepping Congress to loosen U.S. immigration policy, a Reuters poll shows that 70 percent of Americans are deeply worried that illegal immigration is threatening this nation’s culture and economy. Because Congress cannot agree on comprehensive immigration reform with amnesty as its goal, Obama is threatening to act alone in the next few weeks through an executive order to give work permits to up to five millions undocumented immigrants and delay some deportations.

A report in September of last year indicated that 11.7 million illegal immigrants are residing in the U.S. In Illinois the illegal immigrant population has remained constant since 2010 at 550,000. Although the unemployment rate in Illinois dropped to 7.1 percent in June of this year, (not counting those individual who have stopped looking for jobs), it was still 1.0 percentage points higher than the national rate for the month.

The state’s dismal employment picture isn’t helped in that, according to FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), 394,015 jobs were held by illegal aliens in 2013.
If five million illegal immigrants are given work permits through an executive order signed by Obama (which many feel is illegal because it would bypass Congress), not only would it be easier for these illegal aliens to be hired, but it would also signal to others crossing the border illegally that in time they too will be so honored.

The cost already spent per year by Illinois tax payers on its illegal immigrant population is $4.6 billion, with $2.6 billion alone going to educate the children of illegal immigrants. Of concern is that the Department of Justice doesn’t have receipts for half of the unaccompanied alien children who were apprehended at the southwest border by Border Patrol during fiscal year 2013 and fiscal year 2014 through June. Government records show there were 85,000 apprehensions with only 41,592 total receipts marked as juvenile in immigration courts. Of these 41,592, very few will keep their court dates.

Despite this lack of documentation, most of the unaccompanied children so far crossing the border from Central America will never be sent back, as they fall under the bipartisan William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. Children have been coached to game the system, having been schooled on the magic word to say something along the lines of “asylum,” or “political asylum” or to say “fighting in my home country.” By so doing they quality for refugee status and will remain the burden of tax payers for many years to come.

Why then did Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on July 29 ask the Department of Homeland Security to send at least 1,000 more illegal immigrant children to Chicago where they will be housed, clothed, fed, schooled and legally represented for free, when the city is already caring for more than 500 of the kids in secret facilities. Is anything really for free?

Some of the recent illegal immigrant children are suffering from drug resistant tuberculosis, dengue fever, swine flu and other infectious diseases. They will soon be attending public schools throughout this nation. The illegal immigrant “children” also include MS-13 gang members, who say they are 16 but are really much older.

Shouldn’t citizens have some say in who enters this country and stays? With a debt of $17 trillion dollars, this nation can ill afford to bear the costs associated with illegal immigrants. Although the unaccompanied children do arouse feelings of compassion, there are millions of needy and poor children in this nation in need of help.

As related by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) with Stuart Varney as guest host on Fox News “Your World,” DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), announced in June of 2012 by the Secretary of Homeland Security, must be changed to allow our government to quickly process these kids and send them back to their home countries and back with their parents. It would send the message to parents and the next wave of kids, “Don’t send them. Don’t endanger them. Don’t subject them to being raped, abused, murdered, or maimed.”

This is the humane thing to do as our federal government is facing a rapid and unsustainable growth in debt and the American people are over-burdened with taxes.
It is also time to enforce the laws that are already on the books. Regarding the crisis at the southern border, Bill O’Reilly asked Charles Krauthammer a very simple question on Tuesday, July 1: “How do you secure the border, Charles?”

In response, Dr. Krauthammer offered an equally simple answer:

“You start with a fence. It’s very simple. … If fences don’t work, why is there one around the White House? If they don’t work, why is it that the Israeli fence which separates Israel from the West Bank has cut down terror attacks within Israel by 99 percent?”

Nancy Thorner
Lake Bluff

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California ‘May Issue’ Law Overturned: How Will Illinois Fare?

Constitution

By Nancy Thorner & Edward Ingold –

In a landmark decision the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California’s “May Issue” concealed carry law is unconstitutional, by a vote of 2 to 1. The County of San Diego was sued by Edward Peruta and others after being denied a license to carry a concealed handgun for personal defense. According to California law, the applicant must show a “good cause” for the license, in addition to a clean criminal record and good moral character. In southern California and San Francisco, very few people qualify under the “good cause” requirement, which is determined at the whim of the Sheriff of the county.  In practice, only a few politically connected people receive a permit in populous counties, including Senators Diane Feinstein (D-California)) and Barbara Boxer (D-California), both strong advocates of gun control in Congress.

The 9th USCCOA (California) joins the 7th court (Illinois) in upholding the individual right to bear arms in public. On the other hand, the 2nd (New York), 3rd (New Jersey), and 4th(Maryland) courts have decided otherwise.  In their decision, the 9th court examined the historical significance of the right to bear arms in great detail, and soundly criticized the 2nd, 3rdand 4th courts for ignoring the legal history, and deferring to the “wisdom” of the respective state legislatures.

“Thus, the question is not whether the California scheme (in light of San Diego County’s policy) allows some people to bear arms outside the home in some places at some times; instead, the question is whether it allows the typical responsible, law-abiding citizen to bear arms in public for the lawful purpose of self-defense.” Perula v County of San Diego

The court questions whether restricting the right to free speech (the 1st Amendment) to persons with a demonstrated need, certain times or certain subjects would be permitted under the Constitution. They go on to say that the 2nd Amendment is just as fundamental as the 1st, and simply codifies a predated freedom enjoyed by citizens.

It is likely that California will appeal this decision, first to try the case en banc (typically 11 members of the 30 member circuit). This is almost never granted, and if granted seldom overturns the tribunal. The next and obvious step, considering the split between Circuits, would be an appeal the US Supreme Court. While there are no guarantees, based on the majority opinions in Heller v District of Columbia and McDonald v Chicago, the court is likely to concur with the 7th and 9th Circuits. This would strike down the highly restrictive “may issue” laws in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii, allowing their citizens the right of self-defense.

While the decision of the 9th Circuit does not directly affect Illinois, their careful analysis lays the foundation for a closer examination of restrictions on where a citizen can bear arms. The Heller and McDonald decisions established a clear concept of the fundamental right to keep arms for the defense of one’s home and property. Decisions of the 7th (Illinois) and 9th Circuits establish the fundamental right to bear arms, in public, for self-defense. While no right is without limitations, the courts argue that enumerated rights can only be restricted if there is an overwhelming benefit to the public, not just some demonstrable need.

It is logical that limits on where this fundamental right to bear arms should be subjected to the same strict standards. In Heller and McDonald, the Supreme Court recognized that some places may be reasonably restricted, like courts of law certain government buildings and schools.  As the 9th so eloquently stated, these are suggestions, not mandates, and allowance of some restrictions does not mean any or all restrictions are justified.

In the debate leading to passage of HB183, there were many floor amendments added to restrict where weapons were allowed, which seemed to derive from an endless wish list. Libraries are prohibited, even though no acts of violence were cited (nor can be found). Public Transportation makes the list, even though attacks on innocent citizens are common, and the assailants ignore even existing laws. Chicago Forest Preserves are carved out, but not Forest Preserves in other counties, state and local parks, trails and DNR areas other than designated wildlife preserves.

Most of these issues will settle out naturally, once the public sees that CCL holders are not the villains, and the real villains have much more to fear than bystanders. That has been the evolution of laws in other states, and Illinois will no doubt follow. Where there are egregious violations of second amendment rights, we can expect the legislature and courts to intervene, and more large checks granted to the plaintiffs.

Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 03:04 PM | Permalink

 

By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neill –

Although Colorado on January 1st went a few steps beyond the rest of the 19 other states and the District of Columbia that have legalized cannabis (marijuana) for patient use, Illinois, in what was noted as the most high-profile of all the new laws taking effect in the state, on January 1st became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana.

It was on August 2, 2013, that Governor Quinn signed the bill legalizing medicinal marijuana at the University of Chicago Center or Care and Discovery. After decades of resistance, a long-time sponsor of bills to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, Lou Lang (D-Chicago) finally got the votes he needed when several Republicans joined forces with Democrats to pass medical marijuana, disregarding fears expressed by law enforcement officials that unused pot will be sold to teens. Also noted at the time were the mixed message it would send to kids, and the problem facing suburban zoning boards who’d rather not have pot shops pop up on Main Street.

As related in the Chicago Tribune, January 1st ushered in the official start of a four-year trial program that would allow patients with certain chronic illnesses to obtain a prescription for medical marijuana (Marijuana possession remains a federal crime until Congress changes the Controlled Substance Act which is supposed to trump state law.).

Even so Illinoisans sick enough to quality for using the drug may have to wait months before they can begin to do so. Rules are now being worked out by the Department of Public Health, the Department of Agriculture, and Department of Financial and Professional Regulation that must be submitted to a bipartisan legislative panel by May 1 for clarification of the law. Fine tuning will include: Ailments covered beyond the 40 explicit conditions spelled out in the law, who can apply for licenses to open a dispensary or cultivation center, and what constitutes a physician-patient relationship. Until formulated and submitted, full implementation of the medical marijuana program is likely to be delayed until the fall or winter of this year.

Supporters insist that Illinois’ medical marijuana law is among the toughest in the nation. Twenty-two grow centers will be set up (one for each state police district) and 60 dispensaries spread throughout the state. State regulators will determine where growers and sellers locate. Although many suburbs in Thorner’s home county of Lake — in anticipation of the law’s directives — have already put in place strict zoning laws to limit where marijuana could be sold or grown, local officials can’t prevent such businesses from opening in their towns.

When medical marijuana card holder “patients” are legally able to get the product, they will be allowed up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks. Also permitted is the buying of marijuana baked into brownies and muffins, etc.

Patients will pay a 1 percent tax on the purchase of cannabis, as they would when buying other medications. On the business side, the state will impose a 7 percent tax on cultivation center sales. The proceeds will be used to underwrite the costs of running the medical cannabis program. If any money is left over, it’s supposed to be used on crime prevention programs.

An excellent article written by Mick Dumke was published on July 24, 2013, in the Chicago Reader in anticipation of Quinn’ signing of Illinois’ medical marijuana bill. In the weeds of the state’s medical marijuana law pulls no punches. It lays out what the law says, what it doesn’t, and what that means for patients and potheads alike here in Illinois and in any other state who has or is thinking about going the way of Illinois or all the way like in Colorado. A prediction made was that “Illinois’ new cannabis program would help some ill patients, but its many rules, restrictions, and uncertainties are a real buzz kill.”

Compassion and mercy, not the ill effects that young people could experience when smoking pot, dominated the thoughts of more than a few of the nine Illinois House Republicans who stepped forward to give State Rep Lou Lang the votes he needed to legalize medical pot in April of last year. This included Tom Cross, then Republican Minority Speaker of the House.

It was easy going for the Senate to approve the medical marijuana bill a month later. Senator Jim Oberweis received much grief when he voted “yes.”

For those who dismiss research into how teen pot use could hurt brain and memory, a recent NBC News Health Report negated this false assumption. According to Matthew Smith who led the research team at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago:

We see that adolescents are at a very vulnerable stage neurodevelopmentally. And if you throw stuff into the brain that’s not supposed to be there, there are long-term implications for their development.

Consider also this study published in March of 2013 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which documents marijuana’s lasting effects on the brain. Evident is that Illinois legislators of either party didn’t consider this or any other study for guidance on how to view the medical marijuana issue before voting to sanction medical marijuana.

The message inherent in multiple supporting studies is clear. Regular marijuana use in adolescence is part of a cluster of behaviors that can produce enduring detrimental effects and alter the trajectory of a young persons life and cause long-lasting changes in the hippocampus, a brain area critical for learning and memory. Teen marijuana use is linked to school dropout, other drug use, mental health problems, etc.

But why dwell on teen use of marijuana during their high school years, as children under 18 in Illinois can’t be prescribed pot for pain as a patient?

The following should serve as a wake up call. The proportion of American teens who believe smoking pot is harmful has been declining for the past several years, as it has with adults. This trend has resulted in a steady rise in the use of the drugs by teens. The current number of regular marijuana users (about 1 in 15 high school seniors in 2013) and the good possibility of this number increasing with marijuana legalization, makes it imperative not to divert attention from the central point, that regular marijuana use stands to jeopardize a young person’s chances of success — in school and in life.

And what about the 2-1/2 ounces of marijuana available for purchase every two weeks for medicinal purposes? This amounts to two small sandwich bags of marijuana.

Curious as to how many joints 2-1/2 ounces would make, an article published at Illinois Review on Monday, April 22, 2012, presented these stats:

…with cannabis at an average potency, 1.25 ounces could make 75 joints per weeks, or over 10 joints a day. 10 joints a day is unusually high for even the most experienced pot smokers, according to a poll taken on Cannabis.com.

Since Illinois is Illinois, with a stellar history of corruption, it is not unreasonable to predict that situations involving fraud, unscrupulous doctors, and the sharing of unused marijuana with teens by patients will be the products of Illinois’ New Year’s medical marijuana law, despite supporters who insist the law is among the toughest in the nation.

Crime surrounding the legalization of medical marijuana on January 1st has already begun. On December 17 state regulators alleged that a doctor misled potential patients by offering “pre-approval” for medical marijuana through a Chicago clinic.

Part 1: http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/01/will-illinois-new-marijuana-law-duplicate-the-results-in-co-and-ca.html

Part 2: http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/01/part-2-medical-marijuana-legalized-in-illinois-but-will-recreational-marijuana-be-next.html#more

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

ThBy Nancy Thorner – 

CNS News reported in October of this year that according to the U.S. Treasury the government’s federal debt had jumped by $409 billion. This equals approximately $3,546 for each of the Census Bureau’s estimated 114,663,000 U.S. households, and makes October’s spending the largest one-month jump in debt in this nation’s history.

What is troubling is that Congress is not currently restrained by a debt limit. Since October 17 when Congress enacted the Continuing Resolution (CR) with a deal that ended the government shutdown and pushed the debt ceiling level to February 7, 2014, no set dollar amount exists to restrict spending.

With nothing to stop legislators from piling even more spending and debt on taxpayers before February 7, 2014, it is folly to believe that legislators will restrain their spending, nor have they done so. Noted was how an additional $409 billion of debt was accrued through the end of October. While on October 17 the debt subjected to limit stood at $16,699,396,000,000, just $25 million shy of the legal limit of $16,699,421,095,673.60, by October 31 the debt now subject to limit had grown to $17,108,378,000,000.

Troubling is that even with this nation’s credit card maxed out (along with taxpayers’ wallets), Washington aims to continue its spending spree.  Instead of addressing future debt by controlling the growth in entitlement spending and enforcing lower levels of spending, the budget conference committee is considering an option that could increase spending by up to an additional $100 billion; that is, if a compromise deal can be fashioned to bust the sequestration spending caps by up to $100 billion.

An increase in user fees (really a disguised tax increase) would be employed to offset mandatory spending with necessary revenue.  Although gimmicks are nothing new in Washington, D.C., raising user fees to pay for more spending is what has helped fuel our now $17.2 trillion national debt.

State Government:
Not only is the federal government at a tipping point financially, but Illinois has already reached its tipping point.  Consider this Statement of Position from Illinois Treasurer, Dan Rutherford:
Troubling numbers:
  •   Illinois taxpayers’ debt from borrowing = $44.3 billion
  •   Illinois taxpayers’ unpaid bills = $8 billion
  •   Illinois’ unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities = $140

Each Illinois family shoulders this debt = over $40,000 per household Moody’s rates Illinois as the worst credit risk of all the states in the nation, which raises the cost of borrowing money, which, in turn, adds billions of dollar in the repayment of bond issuances.

The following dreary picture of Illinois was painted by Reboot Illinois on November 18:
All of Illinois’ neighboring states were in the top half of Chief Executive Magazine’s 2012 list of best states for business.  Illinois was rated third worst.  The state’s unemployment rate, consistently the highest in the region, is evidence of that ranking’s accuracy [Since 2008, Illinois has lost the third most jobs by state in the country].  Businesses in Illinois suffer under some of the highest workers compensation insurance rates in the country, and in 2011 they saw their income tax rate jump from 4.8 percent to 7 percent — a 46 percent increase [Illinois’ Corporate tax rank is now 45th in the nation].

Later on today Illinois legislators will address in a one-day special session a pension reform deal crafted by the Illinois House and the Senate.  Numerous reports about the bill leave much to be desired, making today’s exercise seemingly geared to convince the pubic that legislators are finally taking the state’s $100 billion pension shortfall seriously.

According to a report by Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, House speaker Mike Madigan’s latest proposal is just the next in a long line of disastrous pension maneuvers and does nothing more than delay real reform and keep Illinois in a chronic state of  crisis.

In typical Illinois fashion, little advance information was shared with the media, the public, and legislators about a bill so critical to the financial well-being of this state.  Just what might be the language of a bill that is being kept under wraps until only hours before legislators cast their votes?

Local Government:

In addition to federal and state tax obligations, there are also local taxing bodies that make financial demands.  Significant is that Illinois has more “local” governments than any other state in the country, 6,963, which is one-thousand more than any other state when factoring in state population.  As it is, Illinois residents pay the second-highest-owner-occupied property tax rates in the country, and their state is the third most corrupt.

Having so many units of government at the local level put taxpayers on the hook for unnecessary layers of government that duplicate services and cause taxes to soar.  It is not uncommon for Illinois residents (61% of them do) to live under the burden of three levels of local government (municipal, township or county government), resulting in a huge outlay of funds allocated for salaries.

Lake County in northern Illinois, Thorner’s home county, ranks No. 1 for the Midwest region on Forbes’ list of U.S. counties with the highest property taxes, the average being $6,052.

Thorner also lives under a township government, that of Shields, in addition to her Village of Lake Bluff.  In Shields Township a whole department exists to handle the scattered township roads and bridges whose trucks criss-cross the same area when snow plowing far fewer mile, than do municipal trucks.

Also adding to the tax burden at the local level are the high number of school districts in Illinois, 911 in all.  Two hundred of them are single school districts. These single districts (Lake Bluff Elementary School District 65 is a single district) cost more per student to educate than do multi-school districts.

Federal, state, and local tax liability has become a burden to many.  Often asked is how much is too much to pay in taxes?   Although little can be done to fight taxation at the state and federal levels, citizens have more of a say at the local level.  Unfortunately many officials are opposed to doing away with the positions they hold, either elected or appointed, even if they hold positions that duplicate work done by others.

And so our tax burden continues to grow to keep the hungry beast that is government fed, with many legislators indifferent about the way taxpayers’ money is wasted and spent as long as it suits their own political interests to be re-elected, thereby ensuring that they will continue to enjoy all the attractive perks they have grown so accustomed to receiving over the years.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013 at 01:27 PM | Permalink

 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

6a00d834515c5469e2019aff90d1ae970c-75wiBy Nancy Thorner –

Illinois Representative Jeanne Ives (District 42- R), in her Veto Session Half-Time Report, described the time spent as just typical days of minimal activity.  There was no serious pension reform, but there were increased spending requests, and discussions of tax incentives for large corporations to entice them to stay in Illinois.

To add insult to injury, Illinois has the worst-funded pension system in the nation ($100 billion and rising) with only 39 cents in assets for every $1 of obligations.

Shouldn’t the state of Illinois be reckoned with as a state having a financial crisis of gigantic proportions, given that the state is estimated to be $5.4 billion behind in paying its bills and where more than 20 percent of its budget is devoted to public employee pensions.  Additionally, Illinois also has the second highest unemployment rate in this nation.

Credit downgrades in recent years, based upon pension debt which places Illinois’ credit rating at the bottom of all 50 states, certainly gives credence to the urgent need to do something and NOW!   The consequences of Illinois’ low credit rating is that the state must pay more interest when borrowing money.

Also to be remembered is that in 2011 Illinois raised its income tax rate from 3 to 5 percent to pay down the billions owed in its backlog of bills, only to have the increased revenue go toward required pension payment.

Recently, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton made a complete turn-around from how he thought about pension reform a little over a year ago on September 12, 2012, when he met with the Tribune editorial board.  At that time Cullerton explained why public pension reform was his No. 1 priority for the 2013 legislative session:

It may not be the No.1 priority of the public because they don’t understand the significance of how this crisis affects the operation of state government, but those of us who know the state budget know this is essential because you wouldn’t have enough money to pay for health care or education.

Cullerton’s  tune was different, however, during a Sunday interview on WGN-AM with Tribune reporter Rick Pearson when he said:

Quite frankly, I don’t think you can use the word ‘crisis’ to describe it at the state. It’s something we have to deal with, but it’s not something that we’re on the verge of bankruptcy on.

Even though Cullerton is correct that states can’t file for bankruptcy, cities can.  Chicago does need pension reform at the state level to avoid becoming the next Detroit.

Cullerton then went on to tell Rick Pearson that the real agenda of those who brought “pension crisis” into the Illinois government vernacular had nothing to do with getting more money into education funding or other essential government functions, but instead about allowing the income tax to fall to 3.75% as scheduled in 2015.

Just how did we get in today’s pension crisis?  And Illinois does have a pension “crisis, and it is an accurate term.   The aim of pension reform is not to punish public employees or to force them to share the pain of those in the private sector who have seen their retirement plans dissipate in recent years. Instead, it’s about balancing state government priorities while ensuring the solvency of retirement funds on which public employees depend.

What are some of the most egregious mistakes leading to this present pension crisis?

  • Failing to make payments to the pension funds that would have kept them securely funded.  Sometimes the unions now blaming lawmakers for shorting payment to pension funds were the biggest cheerleaders for skipping payments.
  • SB 27 passed on Memorial Day Weekend of 2005, stiffed pension funds by $2 billion.  Supporters claimed that the worthwhile reforms it did contain would realize savings at $30-$40 billion through 2005, making it no big deal to replace the $2 billion.  That $40 billion in predicted saving somehow grew into a $100 billion pension debt eight years later.  Since 2009, both school funding and payment to the disabled have been cut steadily as pension payments have chipped away at the state budget.
  • Illinois computes its retirees’ annual pension raises using compound interest instead of simple interest because Governor Thompson signed the bill into law in 1989.

A 10-member conference committee is now working on a reform plan whose savings would fall between what the competing Cullerton and Madigan bills are projecting.  Democrat House Speaker Madigan’s bill would take an estimated $27 billion off the $100 billion pension liability and save taxpayers an estimated $250 billion through 2045, bringing all five of the state’s public employee pension systems to 100 percent funding.  Democrat Senate President John Cullerton’s bill, supported by public employee unions, would save $46 billion and bring the system to 90 percent funding.

According to Chicago Tribune reporter, Ray Long, a pension deal remains elusive, at least during the fall veto sessions, as politics has the upper hand. Any vote likely to take place would fall only weeks ahead of the deadline for candidacy petitions to be filed for next year’s election. Then too, Democrats don’t wish to alienate their traditional Democratic allies of government-worker unions.

Meanwhile, Republicans are voicing proposals for workers to be able to opt into a 401 (K) style plan, for there to be a minimum guarantee cost-of-living increase at 0.5% instead of 2%, and that retirement age be raised.  The latter is a non-starter for Democrats!

Meanwhile, Democrats are hoping that at least some Republican vote for pension reform “in order to share the blame for a controversial vote.”

As related by Senator Jim Oberweis (District 25 – R) in previewing the Fall Legislative Veto Session:

Especially aggravating is the fact that one sensible pension reform option is not even being considered   Senate Bill 2026 was proposed by the Illinois Policy Institute because it would pass constitutional muster, would immediately cut Illinois’ $100 billion unfunded pension liability by nearly half, and would protect the benefits earned to date by current government workers.  Future benefit would accrue in new defined contribution plans. 

Sponsors of the proposed Illinois Policy Institute pension reform solution in the House (House bill 3303) were Representatives Tom Morison (District 54 – R) and Jeanne Ives (District 42 – R).

With a backlog of more than six months of unpaid bills, the worst credit rating in the nation, and the worst funded pension of any state, and given that revenue projections show that Illinois may have $382.5 million more in tax revenue this fiscal year than was originally projected, any clear thinking and insightful legislator would reason that this Christmas tree-like monetary gift to Illinois from taxpayers should be used to pay down Illinois’ backlog of bills.

But like kids fearful that money left in pockets will burn holes, will Democratic legislators within the General Assembly be swayed by pressure directed against them to undo past cuts and likewise sanction new spending, such as?:

  •   Cook County wants $30 million to promote Medicaid enrollment.
  • The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees wants $112 million in pay raises — promised by Gov. Pat Quinn and approved by a judge — but not yet funded by the General Assembly.
  • The Department of Corrections wants $40.5 million to pay a lawsuit and back bills.

As stated by Matt Dietrich on October 24 in his article, Pension reform and tax cuts are separate issues: 

Right now, Illinois spends 24.3% of all its state-generated revenue on it pension payments and that number is climbing.  A lot of people mocked Squeezy the Python last fall, but the message was true.  Our spending on pensions is way out of proportion with what a government should be spending.  It’s increasing ever year and squeezing out funding for essential functions like education.

In 1996, pensions accounted for 3.6% of revenue.  Think about that.  From 3.6% to 24.3%.  By what measure is this a sensible allocation of state revenue?   

More bad news was related to Dietrich by way of the Civic Federation, which projects Illinois will be $5.8 billion behind in paying its bill at the end of the current fiscal year. (This month’s projection noted earlier was $5.4 billion.).

Perhaps even more unsettling is the shortfall or loss of an estimated $54 billion in revenue for Illinois should the partial sunset of the 2011 tax increase take place as scheduled halfway through fiscal year 2015:  a personal income tax rate reduction from 5 to 3.75% and a corporate tax rate reduction from 7 to 5.25%.  Even an optimistic forecast on savings from a pension reform bill would only amount to $750 million to $1.5 billion.

Republicans candidates for governor who favor a partial sun-setting of hiked 2011 income tax rates, need to present a specific plan on how they would deal with the massive $54 billion in revenue loss that would encounter in the wake of the sunset.

A leadership deficit in Springfield is hurting Illinois taxpayers at a cost of at least $5 million per day.  Each day that goes by adds another $5 million in interest payments on our pension debt.

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